BISHOPVILLE, S.C. — The Lee County School superintendent is speaking out against allegations from a school board member who has been vocal about what he says are funding issues within the district.
News 19 spoke with Dr. Wanda Andrews and asked if she was aware of the SLED investigation.
"I think that it's a matter of semantics," says Dr. Andrew. "When I was asked if SLED was investigating the district, the district proper is not being investigated. What I understood is that it's just a focus on the allegations made by Regitt James."
Earlier this month, Lee County School Board member Regitt James held a press conference outlining his concerns with Dr. Andrews' financial relationship with Clarendon One School District, and Clarendon One Superintendent Barbara Champagne's consulting agreement with Lee County Schools.
James called for a SLED investigation.
Dr. Andrews says there's nothing illegal about her or champagne receiving funds for their consulting work and explained that Champagne was a big help in writing the School Improvement Grant for the district. The grant was approved by the South Carolina Department of Education. The district received more than $8 million in funding as a result.
"When Barbara Champagne wrote this grant and took this position as grant evaluator, she was not a superintendent, she was an assistant superintendent for instruction," says Andrews. "But she had permission from her district and her board to do all of this. My relationship and what I did with her is that when she became superintendent, she wanted help and guidance and a mentor. If you look, the money is kind of sporadic, but I wasn't doing as much once we got this full year under her belt. She'll tell you I hesitated, because I really don't do that, I only do this job. But I helped her."
According to online financial documents, Dr. Andrews received $17,500 for her work consulting Champagne, and over the past two years Champagne has received $75,000 for her work as the grant evaluator.
"That pay seems extreme but it's really not," says Andrews. "You have consultants who do stuff with education who come for one day and get $25,000. It was all above board."
We reached out to Champagne who asked us to speak to her attorney Lewis Cromer. He maintains that everything is above board.
"Sadly she has been charged by anonymous sources and people not so anonymous with being crooked and incompetent for running her job, because she has had a consulting contract with a superintendent of another school district, at the same time that she is doing work for that district as a consultant herself," says Cromer. "That gives, according to the sources, the appearance of impropriety. Certainly that appearance could be presence, but there's been nothing illegal, nothing wrong, nothing unethical with the conduct that's she's shown in doing that."
"These are allegations and the truth will come out," says
Dr. Andrews says her focus will continue to be on the students and bettering their education throughout the district.
"I'm not worried about the SLED thing because it's all above board and nothing illegal."